The Practice of Giving Thanks

“Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

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2020 was brutal in every way – physically, economically, spiritually, socially, and politically. The pandemic raged, the Stock Market crashed, millions of workers found themselves without a job, American racial injustice continued to rear its horrible head, and the election was more than contentious. And these same issues have continued with us into 2021.

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But my faith tradition has an ancient practice of giving thanks to God no matter the circumstances – as a way for us to remember that God is a good God who knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8). The people of God are not unaccustomed to hard times – whether it be enslavement in Egypt or exile in Babylon, occupation and persecution by the Romans, the ugly history of enslavement and Jim Crow in our own country, or even the latest corrupted matrimony of religious conservatives with an immoral political right.

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The Christian faith has long promoted the practice of thanksgiving, the practice of proclaiming God’s goodness amidst any and all circumstances. We do this, as people of faith, because we know that God has shown He can lead His people out of Egypt by parting the sea, that He can keep His people safe inside a Babylonian furnace, that He can grow a Church amidst Rome’s occupation, that He can bring us a Lincoln to save the Union and do away with our original sin of slavery, that He can bring us Civil Rights leaders that give political voice to all races, genders, and sexual orientations, and that He can use American voters to defeat immoral leadership and give hope for a more perfect America in the future. In short, we know that the “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” (Martin Luther King, Jr).

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There is power as we practice thanksgiving, especially during tough circumstances. So, today, despite these difficult days at the start of 2021, I give thanks. I give thanks for Dana, Hanes, Cohen, and Baby #3 on the way. I give thanks for our extended family and our community of friends. I give thanks for my colleagues, my company, our church, our country, our health, Hanes’ school, the COVID vaccines, and our frontline workers who are putting themselves and their families in harm’s way to serve us all.

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Yes, this season is a hard one. But my faith tradition teaches me that we have a good God who knows what we need before we ask. So, today, I “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalms 107:1 NIV).

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